The Nigerian private sector has assumed a leading role in the fight against the COVID-19 pandemic in the country. On March 27, the Private Sector Coalition Against COVID-19 (CACOVID) was established to mobilize private sector resources towards supporting the government’s response to the crisis. As the Vice Chairman of Famfa Oil – one of the key stakeholders of the CACOVID Initiative – Mrs Folorunsho Alakija, in this interview, talks about joining the fight against the deadly pandemic and how recovery and outreach have been made possible in order to mitigate the impact of the crisis.
On Joining The Fight
We believe it is only when we work together that we can beat this pandemic as it is not the job of the government alone. We, therefore, decided to roll up our sleeves and get into the trenches by identifying sectors that needed assistance. However, due to the various challenges faced, some of which included: challenges of importing PPE’s and unavailability of adequate food items from farmers and industries, we had to shelve the idea.
We then decided to work with CACOVID which is a coalition of private-sector organizations with the vision to eradicate COVID-19 in Nigeria. With CACOVID, we were able to join our resources and manpower together to fight this deadly disease through the provision of medical supplies, equipment, and building of isolation centres.
FAMFA Oil is a member of the strategy committee responsible for decision-making concerning the building of isolation centres, direct procurement, and supply of medical equipment to identified medical facilities nationwide.
Beating The Odds
Most companies are considering the idea of pay cuts, downsizing labour and other stabilizing strategies to stay afloat. Mrs Alakija shares how organizations can navigate the waters of the crisis to stay afloat and meet expectations for 2020 and beyond.
Due to the sudden economic turbulence resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic, we have been exploring ways to temporarily reduce operating costs.
The following identifies practical considerations and measures associated with the alternatives available to our organization.
- The policy of the company has always been to provide both local and international training for all Management and Non-management staff of the organization. However, due to the pandemic, staff are unable to physically attend such training. Implementing virtual training programs will thereby reduce travel costs (including BTA and Visa fees).
- Advise employees to clear their leave entitlement. This saves the company’s finances as they are not accruing the costs on their profit and loss. Employees may also be asked to take a proportion of their leave, with a percentage reduction in their leave allowance.
- Offer a voluntary sabbatical program or unpaid time off.
- Reinforce cybersecurity training and briefings (routinely performed by our IT
department), to avoid expenses associated with cybersecurity breaches.
- Establish a hiring freeze so that no new employees are hired, (and applicable only under urgent requirements, should positions be filled when employees leave through natural attrition or termination).
Recovering The Oil Sector
With the current crisis, Nigeria is vulnerable to a prolonged period of low oil prices. Our path to quickly ramp up oil availability is limited by operational, regulatory and infrastructure challenges. As an industry leader, Mrs Alakija proposes next steps that can ensure quick recovery of the oil sector
The macro-environmental factors with world oil prices affect Nigeria adversely, as crude oil is the country’s major income source. There is no quick or easy solution to development as any oil production project takes years to develop. However, the government is taking the right steps by expanding Nigeria’s portfolio with the current sale of the marginal oil fields. There needs to be an ease to process these acquisitions and securing property rights, thereby making foreign investment more attractive.
The government must, therefore, ensure that all the reforms on the ease of doing business set up by the administration are adhered to, in order to guarantee the success of these oil field sales.
Reaching Out To Vulnerable Groups
Palliatives have been put in place to minimize the impact of the stay at home order. Amongst the most vulnerable to be affected by the lockdown are orphans and widows. Mrs Alakija shares her reason for supporting this group of people through The Rose of Sharon Foundation.
It is simply the compassion we have for their well-being that made us support our widows and orphans during the lockdown. Widows and orphans are among the most vulnerable groups in the world. These widows are the breadwinners of their families and from our experience, over 60% of our beneficiaries are small business owners. The effect of the lockdown means they will not be able to carry on with business to support their dependents. So, we decided to make some money available to enable them to feed their children during the lockdown. Our vision is to always “Reach out and Touch” our beneficiaries.
Lanre is a writer and digital media enthusiast, with a flair for anything related to empowerment. He is also the Co-Founder and Chief Operations Officer at The Spark.